Ball Don't Lie - NBA

Boston 96, New York 86

Blood, elbows, Spike Lee, Ray Allen's(notes) mother, blah, blah, blah. Don't care.

A nice fade down the stretch for the Knicks in this one. Carmelo Anthony(notes) didn't hit a field goal in the fourth quarter (though he did drop four free throws), and Amar'e Stoudemire(notes) came through with a pitiful showing in registering zero points and just one rebound in eight fourth quarter minutes. Meanwhile, the Celtics became the Celtics again, and Paul Pierce(notes) went off for 13 fourth period points on 5-5 shooting.

New York lost because it managed a rather pitiful 99 points per 100 possessions showing despite its "offense-first" musk, and couldn't keep up with a Boston team that figured out how to run a damned offense in the second half. Because the first half, for Boston, was embarrassing. Doc Rivers crowed about the team being soft defensively, and that's fine, but the real issue with that team was on the offensive end. 59 second half points took care of that, as the ball started whipping around and the players started paying attention.

Also, Kevin Garnett(notes). Twenty-four points, 11 rebounds, four steals, and dominant defense throughout. I'm going to miss that. Assuming it ever goes away. Tell me it will never go away.

***

San Antonio 111, Golden State 96

I didn't care for Golden State's shot selection, which I suppose I could toss out for 90 percent of this team's game recaps over the last 30 years. San Antonio kept them at arm's length from the beginning, and though Tim Duncan(notes) went down with an ankle sprain four minutes into this game, you see me sweating?

Honestly, let the guy take three weeks off. Bring him back for a game or two before the playoffs start, and the Spurs will be fine. Duncan is old enough to know how to not overcompensate with injuries like this, he's going to rehab well, and the playoffs won't start for another 25 days. Sit Manu Ginobili(notes), while you're at it.

And while I know the Warriors provide little interior resistance, did anyone notice Tiago Splitter's(notes) 10 points and 14 rebounds in 26 minutes off the bench last night?

***

Chicago 132, Sacramento 92

A 40-point home win over the Sacramento Kings, I suppose, isn't supposed to astonish. But because the outcome wasn't really ever in doubt, you couldn't help but take a step back and warm yourself with big picture things.

The Bulls are now 13th in offense, to go with that top mark defensively, just a hair ahead of the Boston Celtics. The team's point differential is just a hair behind the Miami Heat. The group can't seem to win against teams like New York, Charlotte, Atlanta, and Indiana; but it's had its way against the top of the NBA heap. And the five-man replacement unit that coach Tom Thibodeau chucks out there during second and fourth quarters continues to amaze. C.J. Watson(notes), Ronnie Brewer(notes), either Kyle Korver(notes) or Luol Deng(notes), Taj Gibson(notes) and Omer Asik(notes)? It's a dominant force.

The Kings are terrible, and they clearly don't care. Paul Westphal looked five years older after the second half than he did entering the locker room at halftime. And coach Thibs needlessly kept Derrick Rose(notes) out there for the entire third quarter, and Deng out there for nearly three minutes in the fourth after he played the entire third quarter. But geez, what a team.

What a team.

***

Memphis 103, Utah 85

The Utah Jazz, clearly, could give a good half-damn about playing out the string. Coach Tyrone Corbin is still talking playoffs, but his team is still thinking about a nice vacation in late April. So it goes.

This makes all the cat-calls about his team's lack of effort righteous, but let's not overlook the fact that Corbin has to play some pretty dodgy players in his rotation, and the fact that Memphis is a deserving playoff team that causes loads and loads of turnovers, while kicking but in transition as a result.

20 percent of Utah's possessions ended in a turnover, a terrible mark, as Ronnie Price(notes) was pressed into duty following Devin Harris'(notes) hamstring injury, and Andrei Kirilenko(notes) appeared to be playing with his head in a very uncomfortable place. The Grizz only made eight free throws, but what does that matter when you lay-in your way to 50 percent shooting?

Also, 10 points, four rebounds and a block for Hamed Haddadi(notes) in 12 minutes.

***

Orlando 97, Cleveland 86

Give the Cavaliers loads of credit, because this team could have been well on its way to another massive loss, but it instead gave a home crowd a good show and near-comeback against a very good Orlando team. Very cool to see.

Orlando's strength on the interior was too much. Brandon Bass(notes) had his moments, Ryan Anderson(notes) had 12 and five rebounds in just 19 minutes, but let's get real, here. All the "where would they be without him?" crap you hear about Derrick Rose? It's meant for Dwight Howard(notes). Because without this man's dominant 28-point, 14-rebound, four-block, four-steal night, Orlando loses by 25 to the freakin' Cavaliers. Derrick Rose may lead my favorite team to a championship this year, but I'm not daft enough to overlook Howard's MVP season.

16 points off the bench for Daniel Gibson(notes) in the defeat.

***

Indiana 102, New Jersey 98

For the good bulk of this season, you could more or less predict a Pacer win or loss after the first 15 minutes of a game. The team has had its fair share of close contests, but by and large there have been nights where the Pacers have had "it" … or when they've "had it." You know what I mean.

And New Jersey seemed well on its way to a sound home win when the Pacers realized that they didn't have to go away. Roy Hibbert(notes) kept sling-shot'ing right hooks at the rim, and the Pacers earned enough trips to the free throw line to make up for the fact that they more than doubled up the Nets in turnovers.

New Jersey had its moments, but it didn't have its Deron Williams(notes). And though Williams has not gone great guns as a Net due to injury, and though New Jersey managed 33 fourth quarter points, the lack of a steadying star influence throughout hurt. Sundiata Gaines(notes) and Jordan Farmar(notes) combined for 32 points (and, seriously, Farmar looked good), but it was a struggle beyond that.

***

Denver 123, Toronto 90

The Nuggets put up 72 first half points, and with Anthony Bourdain in Vienna and Oz Clarke and James May in Bordeaux, I couldn't flip away from this game fast enough.

The offense-first Raptors managed just 85 points per 100 possessions, as the Nuggets chased them off the three-point line, forcing the Raps into more turnovers (21) than assists (20). The pace in this game was insane, possibly at an NBA season-high (106 possessions), and Denver was unceasing in its attack in the first half. Those 31 assists for the Nuggies weren't home cooking, either. Everyone seemed to be open, and even J.R. Smith(notes) (eight dimes) was in on the fun.

These Nuggets are just such a strange, captivating story. Great fun.

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